Country to club transition now much easier for Saints and England ace Coles

Alex Coles was very open about his struggles during the second half of last season.
Alex Coles (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Alex Coles (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Alex Coles (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

After coming back from his first experience with England during the autumn, he found it difficult to rediscover the form that got him into the position to make his Test debut.

Eventually, he found himself out of the Saints team as his club sought glory in the Gallagher Premiership.

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But those experiences have only served to make him stronger as he is back to his best this season.

And after returning from the Guinness Six Nations last month, he felt more prepared for what he admits is a tricky transition between country and club.

"The first time I came back from England duty, I found it really tough, maybe the experience came a bit soon for me back then and I let it affect me a little bit," Coles said.

"It affected my form when I came back to the club, because I felt I had to prove I was worthy of being an international.

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"I ended up trying too hard on the pitch and not doing the basics.

"I ended up getting to the point where I wasn’t being picked here after that.

"I learned a lot from that experience, not putting that extra pressure on myself and just playing how I was playing before and focusing on those bit that were successful for me before.

"It has certainly been an easier transition this time around."

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Coles has clearly learned to enjoy the process of switching back to Saints, and he was just desperate to play again after only appearing in England's opening two Six Nations matches, coming off the bench late on in both.

"It is really exciting to come back in and be with your team-mates again," he said.

"It was an amazing experience, being away at the Six Nations. I obviously didn’t get as much game time on the pitch as I would’ve liked, but still to be involved in a campaign like that where as a team we showed some really exciting stuff and some big steps forward.

"Then equally I was really wanting to come back and play some rugby and try to continue with the momentum we had before.

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"It can mentally be a bit tricky, sometimes coming from different systems. Defensively, we defend a bit differently here at Saints to how we would at England, so you are trying to wrap your head around that.

"You get conditioned to behave in a certain way so that it is automatic, you don’t want to be thinking too much.

"If you are conditioned one way and then you come back in, you start behaving automatically in a way that is different to how you should be.

"It was just about trying to realign myself with what we are doing here, and making sure I am performing the best I can for the team here, making sure I am not stepping out of the system or anything.

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"I also learned a huge amount from the experience; both technical and mental things that I can hopefully bring in and use to my advantage for the club."

Saints are now getting set to host Munster in a massive Investec Champions Cup last-16 tie on Sunday afternoon.

And Coles said: “It really is exciting.

"If you look at seasons gone by, we’ve not been in this situation and we’d have been looking at the calendar and there’s breaks in the schedule because we’re not in Europe.

"Everyone’s really up for the challenge and that win we had against Munster away in January is one of the standout memories from the season so far, so we want to make sure we replicate that at home.

"It’s exciting to be in a different competition, testing ourselves against the best around the continent.”